County releases 2014 proposed budget
by Jason Lowrey
Feb 02, 2014 | 1613 views | 0 0 comments | 43 43 recommendations | email to a friend | print
With a new year comes a new budget for Bartow County. The 2014 operating budget is now available for the public to pick up at the commissioner’s office and review before a Wednesday, Feb. 12, public hearing.

The proposed budget sets the general fund at $64,626,500. All funds, including the general, special revenue, special revenue not under the county commissioner and debt service funds total $111,966,681.

Bartow County Sheriff’s Office has the largest slice of the general fund with $19,817,000. Chief Financial Officer Jo Taylor said the jail and personnel costs are what send the sheriff’s department to the top of expenditures.

“Of course, in the sheriff’s department budget … is the medical and the food for the prisoners. It’s a big expense in the jail operations,” she said.

Other departmental budgets include $7,765,500 for the Bartow County Fire Department; $4,616,100 for the Bartow County Road Department; $3,971,000 for Bartow County Emergency Medical Services; and $2,479,200 for the Bartow County Parks and Recreation Department.

Also included in the general fund budget is $7,078,300 for non-departmental expenses. County Administrator Peter Olson said the non-departmental budget covered transfers out of the general fund to enterprise revenues that do not bring in enough revenue to support themselves, such as the solid waste department and E-911 fund, the county’s library contribution, contributions to the health department, centralized costs for phones, internet and computers and liability insurance.

The most difficult aspects about compiling the proposed 2014 budget, Olson said, were sitting down with all the departments for more than a month to determine their needs and predicting tax revenues.

“Then, the second piece, we sit down and forecast the revenues to try to see what we anticipate [from] all these different revenue sources. Besides the two big ones of sales tax and property tax, there’s probably 20 different other pots that range from $100,000 to $3 million where all the revenues come in,” he said. “You try to look through the history and the trend and all those different funds and estimate where that’s going to be next year.

“So maybe I’d say the most difficult aspect is that crystal ball aspect the [Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax], the [Local Option Sales Tax]. The sales tax particularly has been swinging around and then the general assembly keeps changing the rules.”

The energy excise tax, the Georgia Agriculture Tax Exemption and the title ad valorem tax changes made it more difficult, Olson added, to use 2013’s tax numbers to anticipate 2014 revenues.

As for county employees, furloughs are in the proposed budget, but not yet official.

“We’re budgeting them furloughs. We haven’t committed to furloughing them. We’ve told folks that we’re planning on six, but if the revenues come in like we predict — we’ve budget … about $700,000 — so that’s the biggest improvement for the employees that we’ve budgeted in,” Olson said. “We still haven’t budgeted in for any raises. I know some jurisdictions are starting to give those after five or six years. We’ll just have to look at that toward the end of the year and maybe figure out something then.”

In addition to the general fund, the proposed budget calls for a total of $18,813,300 for the enterprise funds. Of that amount, the solid waste fund has $3,189,100 and the Bartow County Water Department has $15,624,200.

Within the debt service funds, $20,882,950 is dedicated to the 2008 SPLOST debt service fund, which is payment on the $86 million bond taken out on the 2008 SPLOST. Olson said 2014 would see the last payment on the bond.

Overall, Taylor said 2014’s budget was easier to compile than in previous years.

“Yes. This budget definitely was. I mean, our revenues were up and it was easier to get it balanced than in years past where we had to go back and cut things out,” she said.

The first public hearing on the proposed 2014 budget is scheduled for 10 a.m., Feb. 12, at the Frank Moore Administration and Judicial Center, 135 W. Cherokee Ave. Bartow County Commissioner Steve Taylor is scheduled to adopt the budget during a Wednesday, Feb. 19, meeting at 10 a.m.